Days 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be spent in a real “bricks and mortar” school, filling in for a Principal who will be working to build our School Online timetable. With more than 10000 students and more than 400 teachers, this is an unprecedented task.
That word “unprecedented” is on my list of the top word for 2020. It seems to apply to everything.
Today was the first day that I wore a mask continuously, from 7:30 to 4:30. I am gaining an appreciation for my healthcare friends, and for the crocheted “ear savers” that I made last night.
In the school, today is the first day of classes, following a week of orientation. The first 150 minutes of day were scheduled as Period 1, Cohort A. Students were met at a limited number of entrances to the school, applied hand sanitizer and ensured that they were suitably masked. Most teachers were instructing up to 15 students, physically spaced, F2F. Some were also streaming their instruction to Cohort B, in order to keep both halves of the class in synch, rather than having them complete asynchronous work.
As teachers began their classes, I was in a Teams meeting with the Online School team, getting updates from the timetabling team, and discussing how we might define our roles as we move forward. In the absence of department heads, we will be supporting subject-specific groups with a designated Principal or Vice Principal. Not sure if I will end up in the Arts, Technology, Math or Business.
Students departed at the end of their double-period class, returning home to resume work asynchronously online until the last period of the day, when they would meet their Period 2 class online. Half of them will then continue with this group tomorrow morning, while the other half will have another online class before they actually attend class at school on Friday. Our students will attend school two mornings per week, plus every other Wednesday morning for one of their two classes.
At lunch most teachers left to enjoy some fresh air, many “dining” in the parking lot. I am thinking that there might be many creative solutions appearing in the next couple of weeks, given that the other option is to eat alone in a classroom.
Then teachers returned to work, preparing asynchronous materials and setting up their LMS classrooms. In the final period of the day some were able to provide additional synchronous activities to their Period 2 class. The limiting factors appeared to be access to computers with webcams, few document cameras, and sometimes a quiet space to work. I think we’re going to need to post a message in the office during this period, reminding us not to call into classrooms or use the PA system, so as not to interrupt online teaching.
I managed a couple of circuits of the school’s hallways during the two afternoon periods. With no students in the school, and teachers at computers either preparing of instructing, it was an eerie place. I managed a few conversations, both with teachers I knew from past schools and those new to me. They seem optimistic, and happy to be back with kids.
Our communication over the past couple of weeks has not used the term “hybrid”, but it seems to be an apt term to describe the teaching methods being used, with many more online tools than perhaps parents realize. Our teachers have a choice between Brightspace and Google Classroom for their LMS, and between MS Teams and Google Meet for their synchronous classes. They are experimenting, and learning, and will be experts very soon.
At the end of the day was the monthly staff meeting. All teachers were in the school, but were meeting via MS Teams. With several interruptions where the network dropped the meeting, one VP lead the meeting, while the other monitored the chat and managed questions from those who raised their hands. It was fairly effective, with some use of chat for clarification. As supply Principal I was able to listen, and hear the excellent responses from the Vice Principals to the teachers’ concerns.
Tonight I am getting prepared for tomorrow by reading the emails I didn’t get to during the day, writing this daily journal, and crocheting more “ear savers” to bring to school tomorrow. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the halls this week, and peeking into classrooms to see how our physically distanced classes are working. I’m sure that by Friday my musings tonight will be replaced by new perceptions, and I look forward to this process.